By ecoRI News staff
NARRAGANSETT, R.I. — The state departments of environmental management and health are advising the public that clinging jellyfish, a species that can have a powerful sting for those who are sensitive to it, have been found in Point Judith Pond.
During the past 10 days three people have contacted the Rhode Island Department of Health (DOH) to report experiencing stinging sensations and painful welts after shellfishing and recreating in Point Judith Pond. DOH reached out to the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) for assistance, and agency marine biologists surveying Point Judith Pond confirmed the presence of clinging jellyfish.
Adult clinging jellyfish are about the size of a dime and are marked with an orange-brown cross on their transparent bodies. These small jellies have sticky pads on their tentacles that allow them to cling to seagrasses and seaweeds. Clinging jellyfish aren’t known to inhabit ocean beaches or other sandy areas but instead tend to attach themselves to submerged aquatic vegetation and algae in back bays, coastal ponds, and estuaries, areas not heavily used for swimming. Their sting is known to be extremely painful and can result in hospitalization.
Clinging jellyfish are difficult to spot. DEM encourages the public to use common sense and caution in areas where the jellyfish are suspected. Anyone wading through these areas, especially near aquatic vegetation, should take precautions, such as wearing boots or waders to protect themselves.
Originally thought to be native to the Pacific Ocean, clinging jellyfish are prevalent in the Northeast, particularly from Connecticut to Maine and in the waters surrounding Cape Cod. They also have been found on Long Island and in northern New Jersey. DEM and DOH have received reports from the public that clinging jellyfish may be present in Potters Pond in South Kingstown and the Narrow River in Narragansett. DEM marine biologists surveyed Potters Pond in early July and didn’t observe the jellies at that time.
People can react differently to a sting from a clinging jellyfish. Symptoms range from no discomfort to severe pain, redness at the sting site, and respiratory and/or neurological problems. Symptoms typically last about three to five days. DOH advises that if you are stung by a clinging jellyfish to put white vinegar on the sting site to stop any remaining stinging cells; remove any remaining tentacles with fine tweezers, be sure to wear gloves to prevent additional stings to your hands; soak the skin in hot water or take a hot shower for 20-45 minutes; if symptoms don’t go away or pain gets worse, seek medical attention.